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Narrative of the Life of Frederick Douglass - Passage Analysis

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Narrative of the Life of Frederick Douglass - Passage Analysis

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  • Jan. 30, 2012
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Passage Analysis

The excerpt on pages 39 and 40 of The Narrative of the Life of Frederick Douglass is actually a quote of what Douglass proclaims to ships he sees in Chesapeake Bay. He complains to God about his misfortunate and pointing out the injustices he faced. The whole passage actually has a dramatic structure with rising action (lines 1-5), a climax (lines 6-14), and falling action (lines 15-24). Douglass’ lone speech to God isn’t just about him; it also describes many common feelings among slaves at the time. The first three sentences of the excerpt are a comparison of Douglass to the many ships in Chesapeake Bay. He gives the ships many attributes such as being free or being merry (lines 1-4) and in every sentence states his lack of freedom and suffering in contrast to the state of the ships. Douglass moves on to cry “O that I were free! O, that I were on one of your gallant decks, and under your protecting wings!” (lines 4-5) This is a transition to his description of how he wants to be like the boats and is lamenting his inability to be free. He moves on to beg God for mercy (line 9) and then questions his motivations and existence, and why he, Douglass, must face so many adversities (line 10.)

His demeanor then attains a much more collected tone as there are fewer exclamation points and he is now deciding on a course of action to end his misfortune. He is very serious about his escape and eventual journey to freedom in the North to the point that he says “I had as well be killed running as die standing” (line 12) and “it cannot be that I shall live and die as a slave” (line 14.) These phrases clearly show Douglass’ determination to become a former slave and free man.

After ascertaining a goal, Douglass goes into a detailed, exact plan of how he would conduct his escape to the North. His plan has him following a very similar route as the ships he compares himself to in the first three lines. Douglass is very eager to escape as...